I went into today’s Army 10-Miler race with very mixed feelings.
I registered for the race at the insistence of my cousin, Jackie, who lives in Arlington, VA, just outside D.C. A few months ago she assured me that this race is a must-do. Great course (past all the monuments!), tons of crowd support (like the opposite of the Hamptons Marathon!) and a manageable distance (“Just” 10 miles after months of training for 26.2? Easy, right?).
The Hamptons Marathon came and went, and the Army 10 became the next race on my calendar.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to race it balls-to-the-wall style. I’m recovering strongly from the marathon, but I’m certainly not comfortably back in the 8-minute mile land I like so much. But I also didn’t want to just jog this race. I don’t do fun runs. I do races. They are called races for a reason. Am I going to win a race in my lifetime? Probably not. But am I going up against myself, and against a clock? And am I a crazy, competitive, borderline-insane person? Heck yeah I am.
I gave myself a rest day on Saturday to let my legs chill out in preparation for the race. Jackie said she wanted to run together and cross the finish line together, but we never specifically discussed a pace plan we were hoping to stick to.
I hopped on the Vamoose Bus (Fun to say, right?) at 8 am Saturday morning and arrived in Arlington sometime after that. I slept most of the trip and when I was awake, I was freaking out about running.
Remember the other day when I wrote about how my stomach sucks? Well, that hasn’t changed. I’ve felt like complete crap ever since Thursday night when I managed to convinced myself that going to the bathroom in the bushes, which I actually didn’t end up doing, is normal.
Jackie picked me up at the “bus stop” (side of the road) and we went right to the race expo, which was at the Armory next to RFK Stadium — the same place as the National Half Marathon Expo. Good times.
The lines to get in were insane, because this is D.C., and they’re all “you can’t bring you water bottles in here, or your bombs,” so it takes a while to get through security. But they entertain you while you wait, so that’s cool.
Then the lines to pick up our bibs were just as long. There was lots of winding.
I was excited to be seeded in the first wave. In a race with 30,000 runners (Crazy, right?) I would get to take off first and avoid weaving! Yay! At least that was the plan. (Spoiler alert: We missed the first wave because I was in a Porta Potty. Typical.)
The Expo was blah, but I did find some free cheese samples. Free cheese? Yes, please!
Next Jackie took me to Eastern Market, which I am officially in love with. I’ve been to D.C. three times and I was pretty excited about discovering a new little gem yesterday. The market is filled with crafty things and food things and everything smells good.
And we had a Peepmobile sighting.
We got lunch and then walked around to pick up dinner supplies.
Jackie suggested cooking dinner instead of going out to dinner. I told her that as long as “cooking dinner” meant “she would cook and I would sit far away until it was ready to be eaten,” then yes, we should totally cook.
We bought fresh, homemade spinach linguini and some whole wheat linguini, plus broccoli and marinara sauce. Yum!
We also did one of my favorite non-NYC activities: We went to Dairy Queen!
Peanut butter cup Blizzard? Yes. Yes, please.
Eventually we made our way back to Jackie’s “condo” — I don’t know how that’s different from an apartment, honestly, but she kept correcting me — did nothing for a while and then she made dinner and I ate it. Also, her friend Eric joined us, and his cousin is one of my friends from college. I find this world to be very small sometimes.
After dinner, Jackie and Eric took me for a drive so I could see the monuments at night.
I love the D.C. monuments, maybe more than a normal amount.
If I could set up a little apartment-type situation and live at Abe Lincoln’s feet, I would do it. And if I could visit Jefferson and his love shack daily, I’d be into that, too. Sign me up.
They drove me past Arlington Cemetery, which I had never seen before, and I got all weird and emotional about it. Good thing I was in the backseat and they didn’t notice. I don’t know why it made me so sad. I’m pathetic.
They also took me to the Iwo Jima memorial, which might be one of my new favorites. It’s huge and magnificent and I geeked out hard staring at the flag-raising men.
D.C. monuments during the day = nice.
D.C. monuments at night = so much better.
After our jaunt, Jackie and I returned to her condo and I fell asleep in roughly 8 seconds.
This morning I woke up at 5:30 am. I did all the usual things: sit-ups, shower, Body Glide, granola bar, a little bit of water and a happy dance.
Minus the happy dance.
My stomach felt awful.
I probably went to the bathroom eight times before we left Jackie’s, and as soon as we walked out the door I knew I wasn’t done. It’s not a fun feeling, as I’m sure many of you know.
I wanted to run a strong, hard race, and though I wasn’t setting out to necessarily PR, I obviously didn’t want to feel badly during the 10 miles.
We took a very crowded Metro to the start at the Pentagon.
Today I learned that the Pentagon may look cool from above, but when you’re standing next to it, it just looks like a regular old, boring building. Filled with history. Or whatever.
We checked our bags and headed for the Porta Potty lines. They were very long.
I did my thing, and then we walked to the start.
The race began at 8 am, and at 7:59 I was still waiting in line.
We missed the first wave, but started with the second wave.
I would like to point out that this was my first race running entirely without music! And I liked it.
Right away I loved this race. Even though my body was going all kinds of batshit crazy, there were so many spectators and men in uniform all over the place, screaming their pretty little faces off for the runners. There was music blasting at the start, and some sort of gun or cannon went off when it was time for us to get running, and I enjoyed that.
Jackie said she wanted to start off running 9-minute miles and then pick it up in the second half if she could. Deal.
The first mile was way too packed to do anything faster than a 9:30 pace. We were admittedly weaving like crazy, and I had to hold back from punching the A-holes who walked right from the start. Get out of my wave, crazies!
Sorry. That was aggressive.
Please get out of my wave, crazies!
The first few miles went by quickly and the sights were pretty incredible. We ran past Arlington Cemetery, my boy Abe Lincoln, my second-favorite boy Jefferson, and the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, which I’m not a huge fan of. It’s weird looking.
By mile three I knew I’d be making a stop at some point. My stomach was sloshing all over the place and it just wasn’t settling, and I was kind of freaking out.
The bathrooms were stationed every two-ish miles, and at one point the stomach pain got so bad that I seriously contemplated making a little bathroom for myself in a bush in front of the National Air & Space Museum.
I pushed onward, and we were maintaining an 8:55-ish pace. My legs felt tired, but they were OK.
At mile 6.6, a glorious thing happened: a row of Porta Potties appeared, and there was no line. I made a mad dash for them and I instantly felt calmer. I still didn’t feel great when I was, you know, done, but I figured I had fewer than five miles to go, and I could survive that.
When I stopped I told Jackie to keep running, but she said she was hurting. She’s been battling some sort of bubonic plague — or a sinus infection or something — all week, so she was attempting to run the race without breathing. It was impressive. It was also impressive how many times she spit and snot rocketed and stuff. She was snotting and I was in a bathroom. We’re one hot family.
I bolted out of the Porta Potty and picked up my pace so I could catch up with Jackie. It took about a mile, but eventually I saw her pretty little Sweat shirt up ahead. When I finally caught her, she did not look happy.
“I can’t do this, Al,” she told me, and I got all kinds of pissed off.
“Yes, you can. Don’t say that. You’re GOING to finish this race. We only have two miles left.”
“No, I’m serious. I can’t breathe. My feet are numb. I need to walk.”
Jackie was not enjoying my motivational pep talks, so I caved and agreed to walk with her for 15 seconds. We did this a few times from miles eight through nine, and then I told her we were running it out to the finish.
She kept saying “can’t” and I kept getting mad. I remembered Mrs. Coach Cane pushing me to my marathon finish, and I wanted to have that same effect on Jackie, but she wasn’t really into it.
We did bang out the last half mile at an 8:00 pace, and my finish time, thank you Crohn’s disease-induced pit stop, was something like 1:36, according to my watch (official finish time is something I am not sure of at the moment). Ten minutes slower than my 10-mile PR. Stellar, Feller.
So yeah, I don’t do races for fun. Do I enjoy them? Yes, sometimes. But I run races to race them. Not against other runners, but certainly against myself. So it took a decent amount of humility to smile at my wonderful cousin (who is a fantastic hostess) and say, “Yes, we’ll take it easy.”
Immediately after finishing my entire body tightened up and I felt sick. Like, barfy sick. We got on the Metro and all the runners smelled like vile sweat, and yes, I love sweat, but not smelly, right-up-next-to-me sweat from strangers.
I think that I was just dehydrated, but I got a pounding headache and everything went black a few times. I’m pretty sure running a race two weeks post-marathon isn’t a super-smart idea, and I’m definitely sure that running it with a whorish stomach wasn’t great either.
But hey, the course was awesome, the weather was gorgeous, and the two-hour post-race nap I took was incredible, as was the chocolate chip bagel I scarfed down in an attempt not to pass out or throw up.
That, my friends, is my little recap of the Army 10-Miler. Great race, bad Ali.
Here’s where things stand now:
- I will give myself one more week of not-too-hard running to fully recover from Marathonfest 2011 (It makes no sense to call it that, I am aware).
- From there, I will devise my training plan for the Las Vegas Half Marathon in December. My plan is going to include lots o’ speedwork.
- I want to get fast again.
- I want to run good, strong, PR-worthy races again.
- I want to kick myself in the stomach. Or at least make a doctor’s appointment to see what’s going on. I’m not really enjoying spending all my time in the bathroom lately.
- I would like to write at least one blog post that does not include details of my daily bathroom experiences.
In other news, congratulations to all of the racers this weekend! Chicago Marathoners, Mohawk Hudson Marathoners, Staten Island Half Marathoners, Kona Beasts…I think you’re all wicked cool and impressive.